Book Review: Dinosaurium

Happy Friday and welcome to another review! Also, don’t forget to comment on the I’m a Duck blog post by tomorrow for your chance to win a copy of that adorable book!

And now I bring you a book I would have loved as a child! Who doesn’t love dinosaurs? I know you all will love this book as much as I did.

Welcome to the Dinosaurium!


Dinosaurium (2018, Big Picture Press, Picture Book)

dinosaurium

From the publisher:

Welcome to the museum that is always open to explore… Step inside the pages of this beautiful book to discover galleries of dinosaurs, expertly curated to bring you the experience of a fascinating exhibition from the comfort of your own home. Dinosaurium features a wide range of dinosaurs from the most-loved Triceratops and Tyrannosaurus Rex to lesser-known species such as Coelophysis and Tsintaosaurus. With stunning artwork from Chris Wormell (known for the cover of H is for Hawk and his picture books including George and the Dragon) and informative text with input from experts in palaeontology, Dinosaurium is the perfect gift for anyone with an interest in this fascinating field. Welcome to the Museum is a series of beautifully illustrated, stunningly curated, informative books for all ages. From Animalium and Botanicum to Historium and Dinosaurium there is a book for everyone to discover and explore.

dinosaurium inside2

Review:

Dinosaurium, curated by Chris Wormell and Lily Murray, is a spectacular exploration of all things dinosaur! This over-sized book is beautifully illustrated and designed. Children and adults are sure to be impressed with the detail and depth of information covered as the reader is taken on a “tour” of a dinosaur museum. While young readers will be intrigued by the ferocious illustrations, the print is small and complex, making it a difficult read for emerging or beginning readers. Older, or strong independent readers will be entertained for hours, as this book is packed full of information.

dinosaurium inside1

Dinosaurs remain popular with children of all ages and this fantastic book is sure to be read again and again. Highly recommended for children ages 6 and up.

5 big stars for this big adventure!


Thank you to the publisher for a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review & More!

Happy Friday!

I hope you all have great books picked out for weekend reading. I have quite a few on my shelf at the moment. I also have a great review and author interview for you today, but first, what you’ve all been waiting for….drum roll please….

The winner of the Sleeping Bear Press and Jen Sattler giveaway is….Christina G.!

Congratulations Christina!

And now, on with the show!

My Rotten Stepbrother Ruined Cinderella (2017, Stone Arch Books/Capstone, Chapter Book/Lower Middle Grade)

ruined cinderella

From the publisher:

Holden, what have you done?! It wasn’t enough to ruin Maddie’s report on Cinderella, but now you’ve somehow broken the ACTUAL fairy tale? The ugly stepsister is marrying the prince and there’s no happy ever after! You need to fix this and the only way seems to be by entering the story. But beware: if you can’t mend it, you can never return . . .

Review:

My Rotten Stepbrother Ruined Cinderella, written by Jerry Mahoney and illustrated by Aleksei Bitskoff, puts a new, and very modern spin, on an old favorite. When Maddie’s stepbrother Holden “breaks” the Cinderella story, they are both surprised to be sucked into his tablet and dropped into Cinderella’s story. Taking on the roles of foot soldier and wicked stepsister, Holden and Maddie must work together (easier said than done) to set things right or be stuck in the story forever. With a crazy cast of characters, it’s not just Cinderella in the spotlight. My favorite minor character was Darreth, the Duke of Darkness, who is locked away in the dungeon but thunder rumbles every time his name is uttered.

Not just focused on the fanciful, the book does take time to ponder serious issues such as divorce set against the background of wicked stepmothers and rotten stepbrothers. Not to mention, the perfectly captured reality of bickering among siblings, or step-siblings. Add in logical twists and real emotions, and the story develops into something surprisingly insightful with characters more real than those found in most fairy tales.

The reader might hope for more illustrations, but otherwise this one is sure to get lots of giggles from the target audience. Fans of fairy tale retellings will especially enjoy this fun, quirky read. Recommended for readers ages 8 to 10.

4 stars for Cinderella and friends!


This is part of a series so readers who enjoy this “ruined” fairy tale, can check out more books in the series!


Interview with Author Jerry Mahoney

Thank you to Jerry Mahoney for taking time to visit with me and share about his writing career and inspiration!

After reading My Rotten Stepbrother Ruined Cinderella, I’m super curious about the other books in this series. How did you come up with the idea for this series and how did you decide which fairy tales to “ruin”?

When my kids were younger and I would read fairy tales to them, I would sometimes have to hold myself back from rolling my eyes or making wisecracks. I mean, they’re great stories, which is why they’ve stood the test of time. Still, though, it’s inevitable that after hundreds of years, some of them will show their age. So I would find flaws, like the notion that a prince would try to find one specific woman by trying a glass slipper on random women all over his kingdom. Obviously, lots of people have the same size foot. Besides, she’s supposedly the love of his life, so shouldn’t he remember what she looks like?

I would bite my tongue, though, and not mention the issues I had with the stories, because I didn’t want to ruin them for my kids. That eventually led me to come up with Holden, a kid who doesn’t mind ruining stories for people. In fact, he loves it!

Through him, I could do what I was afraid to do and ask tough questions about stories that are pretty universally loved. The more I started picking fairy tales apart, the more plot holes I found, and I learned that a lot of them were issues that many people had with the stories. Maddie sprung from the other side of my personality, the part that loves being swept away by a good, romantic fairy tale and doesn’t mind making a few logical leaps along the way as long as she’s enjoying the read.

I wrote MY ROTTEN STEPBROTHER RUINED CINDERELLA first, because it’s probably the most well-known and also had the most obvious plot holes to me. Then, when my publisher ordered it as a series of four, I read a bunch of fairy tales, then thought what plot holes Holden would find in each one and how the stories might change as a result. Together with the publisher, we decided which ones would make the best stories for the first four books in a series.

Of course, I have ideas for many more. I’m hoping these books will do well enough that I’ll get to write them! 🙂

Have you always enjoyed fairy tales? And if so, what was your favorite fairy tale as a child?

Who doesn’t love fairy tales? I think on some level, even Holden does. Lots of boys think that it’s uncool to like them, but show me a boy who refuses to go see a new Disney princess movie, and I guarantee you he was belting out “Let it Go” everywhere he went when he was 3.

I think “Beauty and the Beast” has always been my favorite. Of course, what Disney did with it was magical — with the dancing dishware and those gorgeous songs. But even if you take all that away, at the heart of it, it has such a sweet message about accepting people for who they are. Also, it’s one of the few fairy tales that doesn’t subscribe to the notion of love at first sight. Belle has to work really hard to get to know the Beast before she falls in love. That makes it all the more fulfilling when it finally does happen. And that’s been my experience in life as well. Sometimes, you have to dig really, really hard to find the good in people.

When you imagine someone reading your books, what do you hope they feel during and after reading your work?

That’s a tough question, because as a writer, you want to take readers through a range of emotions — excitement, fear, sadness, joy. I consider myself primarily a comedy writer, but sometimes, the moments I’m proudest of aren’t the jokes but the emotional payoffs. (In MY ROTTEN STEPBROTHER RUINED CINDERELLA, it’s the moment where Beautianna gets into art school and tells Maddie that she’s realized she’s her fairy godmother. Oops, spoiler warning!)

Overall, though, I feel like if I’ve made someone laugh, I’ve done my job. There’s so much negativity in our world, so much conflict and so much to get down about. Nothing makes me happier than knowing I’ve made someone forget about all that for a few minutes and just have a good time.

Readers are always curious about what an author’s day to day life is like. When you are working on a project what is your day like and what are some hobbies you enjoy outside of writing?

My other job besides writing is being a stay-home dad. So my writing day starts after I drop my son and daughter off at school. Then, I try to do a few hours of new writing on whatever my main project is at the time. As you probably know, publishing is very slow, so what I’m writing now might not come out for two years or more. Or if it’s not working, I may scrap it and start something new instead until I have a manuscript I really believe in.

After working on new writing, I usually have some business to attend to, whether it’s writing a synopsis for the book jacket, approving a cover or answering a questionnaire like this. 🙂 This part is always much easier and more fun than staring at a blank page and having to fill it with something new.

By then, it’s time to pick my kids up, and my duties switch to checking homework, cooking dinner and losing to my kids at Mario Kart. Once they’re in bed, I usually try to squeeze in a bit more writing. Late night is a good time for brainstorming new ideas. Then I’ll read in bed, because I love hearing other writers’ voices and getting jealous of how good they are.

Anything else you’d like to share about your books or your writing career?

Yes! First of all — shameless plug alert! — my next book, BUTTHEADS FROM OUTER SPACE, comes out in March 2018. As you can probably guess from the title, it’s full of crazy, horribly inappropriate humor (yes, fart jokes), and therefore no one should read it under any circumstances. I like to think of it as a next step up for kids who grew up on the Captain Underpants books and Diary of a Wimpy Kid. It’s probably not going to impress anyone’s teacher if they do a book report on it, but it’s hopefully the kind of book kids will want to read just for fun — even if they have to hide it from their parents.

Beyond that, I’m very busy working on some new projects that I hope to be able to share with everyone soon. If you want to know more, come visit my website www.jerrymahoneybooks.com, or follow me on Twitter (@WhyJerryWhy), Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/jerrymahoneybooks/) and Instagram (@jerrymahoney). Most of all, thanks for reading!


Thank you to Jerry Mahoney for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: Tokoyo the Samurai’s Daughter

Hello book lovers!

I have great books coming up for you all, PLUS a blog tour and giveaway! Tune in to the blog February 2nd when I feature an interview with author Jen Sattler, her new board books, and a GIVEAWAY! Remember when I have a giveaway, all you have to do for a chance to win great prizes is comment on the corresponding blog post. Easy peasy!

Follow my blog via email and you’ll never miss out on a giveaway! 🙂

And now I take you to ancient Japan in a recent offering from Raggedy Moon Books…

Tokoyo the Samurai’s Daughter (2017, Raggedy Moon Books, Lower Middle-Grade/Chapter Book)

tokoyo

From the publisher:

An adventurous girl! Most noble-born girls of Tokoyo’s age learn to sing, paint, and write poetry. Not Tokoyo. She’s the daughter of a samurai in fourteenth century Japan. Tokoyo’s father trains her in the martial arts. When he is away, she escapes to the sea where she works with the Ama—a society of women and girls who dive in the deep waters for food and treasure. But disaster strikes her family. Can Tokoyo save her father using the lessons she learned and the skills she mastered to overcome corrupt officials, her own doubts, and a nasty sea demon?

Review:

Tokoyo, written by Faith L. Justice and illustrated by Kayla Gilliam, could be an enjoyable story for younger readers.

This is a book written for a young audience and will be best appreciated by that audience. From the perspective of an adult reader, the story is very short and there isn’t much character development. It would have been nice to see more interaction between Tokoyo and her father. The scenes are all short and plot driven leaving out a lot of the emotional turmoil that would build a connection between Tokoyo and the reader.

But for a young reader, Tokoyo will come through as a strong, independent and courageous young woman. The historical aspect is interesting, and young readers especially will be intrigued by the details of ancient Japanese culture whether those are fantastical elements or factual ones. Overall an entertaining read that will impress readers ages 8 to 10 more than older readers.

Three stars for this adventurous tale


Thank you to the publisher for a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Holiday Round Up!

So many books, so little time…until Christmas!

There’s still time to find the perfect book for everyone in your family. If you’re wondering about new releases, here’s a selection of books that are holiday themed or just make great gifts!

Norse Myths: Tales of Odin, Thor and Loki (2017, Candlewick Press, Middle-Grade Mythology)

norse myths

From the publisher:

Long-recognized master of Norse mythology Kevin Crossley-Holland pairs with award-winning artist Jeffrey Alan Love for an exceptional look at the Viking gods.

A collaboration by two talented creators provides the perfect means to delve into Norse mythology and pore over the enthralling exploits of all-powerful Odin; mighty Thor and his hammer, Mjolnir; and Loki, the infamous trickster. From the creation of the nine worlds to the final battle of Ragnarok, Carnegie Medal winner Kevin Crossley-Holland details the Viking gods as never before, while Jeffrey Alan Love’s lavish illustrations bring the mythic figures to life on the page. Readers will be caught up in the seesawing struggle for power between gods, dwarfs, and giants, punctuated by surprising love matches, thrilling journeys, and dazzling magic. With its well-researched, lyrical prose and its dramatic and powerful artwork, this wonderful gift edition makes the perfect book for both the staunchest fans of mythology and newcomers with no knowledge of Viking folklore.

Review:

For fans of mythology this is a fantastic collection! With striking illustrations and in-depth coverage of all the popular and less-popular Norse myths, this would make a great gift for a young (or old) reader. Comic book fans might also enjoy this as they learn more about Thor and Loki who have become exceptionally popular via movies recently. Highly recommended for readers ages 10 and up (This can certainly be given as a gift to a teenager!).


Harry Potter: Magical Film Projections: Quidditch (2017, Candlewick Press, Interactive Book)

From the publisher:

Using black line illustrations on framed acetate pages, this unique book allows fans to project their favorite scenes from the Harry Potter films at home with a flashlight.

The wizarding world’s favorite sport, Quidditch is a magical game played high up in the air with Quaffles, Bludgers, and broomsticks. This interactive book allows fans to project their favorite Quidditch scenes

Review:

This book is definitely for die hard Harry Potter fans. It’s more of a collectible piece than anything, and would be best for someone who loves Harry Potter and loves everything to do with that world. The concept is neat and the acetate pages do project on the wall when shining a flashlight through them, but the picture is a bit blurry if it gets too big. These could be fun if projected on a large piece of paper for children to trace the image or if a child was given more creative freedom and could paint a large Harry Potter scene on his or her wall. Overall, a neat concept best appreciated by the younger Harry Potter fans ages 8 and up.


Make & Play Nativity (2017, Nosy Crow, Picture/Activity Book)

nativity

From the publisher:

With twenty easy-to-assemble press-out pieces as well as the narrative, this book includes everything you need to bring the Christmas story to life. A perfect gift for the holiday season!

Review:

This book by Joey Chou has the perfect nativity set for little ones. Made of sturdy, laminated cardstock, children can pop out the pieces and put it together themselves, but it’s cute enough that it can be displayed alongside all the other Christmas decorations or let the kids play with it. If you are looking for a great way to share the Christmas story with young children, this book is the way to go. Complete with the nativity story, Christmas songs, and other activities, this is a book bursting with the true meaning of Christmas. Highly recommended for children ages 2-8.


Make & Play Christmas (2017, Nosy Crow, Picture/Activity Book)

christmas

From the publisher:

This innovative new activity book includes ten press-out pieces to play and decorate with. The simple die-cut shapes, including Santa, a reindeer, and an angel, are easy to press out and slot together. The book also includes lots of activities, songs, and recipes to help celebrate Christmas!

Review:

This Christmas activity book by Joey Chou is sure to be a hit with little ones this season. For road trips or Christmas morning, this book will keep children engaged all afternoon. The pop out pieces are sturdy and beautifully designed. Each piece has a small hole for thread or a hook so it can be hung on the tree. Adults will even want to join in on the fun as children ask to do the other activities in the book. Highly recommended for children ages 2-8.


We Wish You a Merry Christmas: Sing Along With Me! (2017, Nosy Crow, Board Book)

wish you a merry christmas

From the publisher:

Each book in the Sing Along With Me! series has five slider mechanisms and a QR code with directions for how to download both an instrumental and vocal version of the nursery rhyme. Simply scan the code to listen and sing along! Slider mechanisms on each page and cheerful illustrations will make these favorites for sharing. Sing along to the classic Christmas carol in We Wish You a Merry Christmas.

Review:

Another great offering from Nosy Crow this holiday season! This engaging board book is illustrated by Yu-hsuan Huang and features fun slider mechanisms throughout. These are some of the best slider mechanisms I’ve seen and they feel very sturdy and able to withstand repeated sliding by small, enthusiastic hands. The text is the first verse of “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” which most children will be familiar with and will make for a fun sing-aloud. As a bonus, the book comes with a free downloadable song! Highly recommended for children ages 2-5.


The Twelve Days of Christmas: Panorama Pops (2017, Candlewick Press, Pop-up Book)

twelve days

From the publisher:

Enjoy gorgeous art by an award-winning illustrator in this enchanting 3-D rendition of a beloved Christmas carol.

On the first day of Christmas
my true love sent to me . . .

Unfurl a delightful accordion-fold book to find a turtle dove rising on the wing, a sprightly lord a-leaping from the page, and many more elements of the familiar seasonal song. Featuring the captivating art of Grahame Baker-Smith, this Christmas keepsake tucks back into a slipcase until the next holiday season.

Review:

More novelty item than book, this accordion-style pop-up story is a beautiful new way to enjoy an old carol. The illustrations are beautiful and the pop-ups add a fun twist. This would be best for people who love Christmas and love to collect books associated with Christmas, vintage items, or who love Christmas carols. This could be fun for kids, but the pop-ups would likely not fare well with very young children. The book comes in a hardcover sleeve and it’s small, maybe four inches by four inches. Overall, a fun and festive gift if you’re looking for a stocking stuffer that can be enjoyed every Christmas.


Thank you to the publisher for copies of these books in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review: The Werewolf of Davenport

Hello all, I’m here with the last slightly spooky read of the season before we get into holiday books!!! I have some outstanding Christmas books for you all this year and I can’t wait to tell you all about them, but first….

The Werewolf of Davenport (2017, Branford Books, Middle grade fantasy)

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In this sequel to The Midnight Glass, the reader is once again transported to the mysterious town of Davenport where a host of magical and mythical creatures live and work together. The sun now shines in the town once known for eternal darkness, but for Wyatt Dumont the dark times aren’t over. As the gatekeeper, he faces difficult decisions about who to allow into the city, and even more troublesome are the recent attacks by a vicious werewolf. Now Wyatt is seeing a ghost girl and he can’t help but wonder if everything is connected.

As the city adjusts to the sunlight, it seems evil has a greater presence than ever and the citizens wonder if sunlight might be a greater curse than the darkness.

The Werewolf of Davenport, written by D.T. Vaughn, is an exceptional sequel to The Midnight Glass. I reviewed The Midnight Glass last year, and was impressed by it, and I think this sequel is even more exciting and developed than its predecessor.

The characters are more developed and we see Wyatt’s friendships grow, as well as him as a person. The villains are wonderfully frightening and new creatures are introduced. With lots of twists and turns, middle-grade readers will love this page-turning adventure.

Readers should read the first book before picking this one up, as they might be a bit confused without the backstory.

Overall, an exciting, slightly scary, fantastical adventure that readers 10 and up will want to read late into the night. Highly Recommended! 

4 stars to shine at night in the spooky city of Davenport!


Thank you to Branford Books for a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review: Giant Pumpkin Suite

Giant Pumpkin Suite (2017, Candlewick Press, Middle Grade Fiction)

pumpkin suite

From the publisher:

Who are you, if you can’t be what you always expected? A moving coming-of-age tale of prodigy and community, unlikely friendship and growing things.

Twelve-year-old Rose Brutigan has grown seven inches in the last eight months. She’s always been different from her twin brother, Thomas, but now she towers over him in too many ways. The gap in their interests continues to widen as well. Musically talented Rose is focused on winning the upcoming Bach Cello Suites Competition, while happy-go-lucky Thomas has taken up the challenge of growing a giant pumpkin in the yard of their elderly neighbor, Mr. Pickering. But when a serious accident changes the course of the summer, Rose is forced to grow and change in ways she never could have imagined. Along the way there’s tap dancing and classic musicals, mail-order worms and neighborhood-sourced compost, fresh-squeezed lemonade, the Minnesota State Fair — and an eclectic cast of local characters that readers will fall in love with.

Review:

Giant Pumpkin Suite, written by Melanie Heuiser Hill, weaves a musical and magical tale of family and friends, and finding one’s true talent. With Rose having a passion for Bach, the story is told with many references to the composer and lots of tidbits and lesser known facts. Fans of math puzzles and music will enjoy this aspect of the writing.

The book is quite long for a middle-grade read and a bit slow to get started which might deter some readers. On the other hand, readers will feel a great sense of accomplishment by finishing such a long book.

In a market that leans heavily toward fantasy and magical realism, it’s nice to see a book planted more firmly in the real world, allowing readers to make more direct correlations between the characters’ lives and their own.

Overall, this book is interesting and well-written, just a bit slow as far as pacing goes. Recommended for readers ages 10 and up.

3.5 stars


Thank you to Candlewick Press for a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review: The Inquisitor’s Tale

The Inquisitor’s Tale, Or, The Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog (2016, Dutton Children’s Books/Penguin Random House, Middle-Grade Historical Fiction/Fantasy)

the inquisitors tale

From the publisher:

1242. On a dark night, travelers from across France cross paths at an inn and begin to tell stories of three children. Their adventures take them on a chase through France: they are taken captive by knights, sit alongside a king, and save the land from a farting dragon. On the run to escape prejudice and persecution and save precious and holy texts from being burned, their quest drives them forward to a final showdown at Mont Saint-Michel, where all will come to question if these children can perform the miracles of saints.

Join William, an oblate on a mission from his monastery; Jacob, a Jewish boy who has fled his burning village; and Jeanne, a peasant girl who hides her prophetic visions. They are accompanied by Jeanne’s loyal greyhound, Gwenforte . . . recently brought back from the dead. Told in multiple voices, in a style reminiscent of The Canterbury Tales, our narrator collects their stories and the saga of these three unlikely allies begins to come together.

Review:

The Inquisitor’s Tale, written by Adam Gidwitz and illuminated by Hatem Aly, is a smart, thought-provoking and tightly-crafted work of art. From the beautifully detailed illustrations to the incredibly researched historical data, this book pulls you in to its world in so many ways. The book feels like an old tome which helps set the stage, then the narrative style makes the reader feel like they are seated at the table in the pub alongside the book’s characters. The story unfolds in a beautiful and almost poetic way, as the reader is introduced to the children and discovers why the King of France has declared war against them.

With a diverse cast of characters, the book examines what it means to be a friend, religion, and the power of words. From the spoken words of the narrators to the written words that spur the children to action, the reader sees that words, rumors and stories can change the course of history. While this is a work of fiction, there are many historical accuracies and hidden truths woven throughout the telling of the children’s adventures. I don’t have enough words to capture the wonder and beauty of this magically spun tale.

Religion does play a major role in the text, but I think the book can be enjoyed by those of any faith, as the children reflect on what faith is and what religion really means.

Children and adults can enjoy this charming tale featuring a wide cast of intriguing characters and a setting as rich and wonderful as the book’s illuminations. Highly recommended for children of all ages.